Friday, October 31, 2014

Etymology and the Brain, 5

The verb stenograph means to write or report in stenographic (shorthand) characters. So stenography—a combination of Greek words graphic (writing) and stenos (narrow)—is the process of writing in shorthand especially from dictation or oral discourse. It is typically done now using a stenograph, patented in 1879 by Miles Bartholomew, a newspaper reporter. Many court reporters use stenotype machines, trained users being able to input text on a stenotype keyboard as fast as 225 words per minute (the minimum needed to become certified by the National Court Reporters). Digital and audio recordings are being introduced in court rooms, although it may be a very long time before they replace stenotype machines. Outside court rooms, modern day shorthand includes the myriad letter homophones commonly used in texting: ‘btw’ (by the way), ‘lol’ (laugh out loud), and so on. In fact, every person who texts may eventually be considered a stenographer. So, while waiting for an appointment, if I have an iPad, iPhone, or laptop with me and Wi-Fi or 3G is available—I can always delve deeper into Etymology! At the very least I can stimulate my brain with ‘Whirly Word.”

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Etymology and the Brain, 4

And typeface. What is typeface? According to Wikipedia, a typeface is a set of characters that share common design features (all of one style) and sometimes one size. There are thousands of different typefaces in existence. Moreover, new ones are being developed constantly, which can be disconcerting to a brain that prefers one style and energizing to a brain that enjoys variety. There is even a term font paralysis to describe a situation wherein an individual cannot even decide on the type of font to use. According to, “Open Sans is the new Arial.” The typeface Times New Roman has perhaps been the most widely used typeface in more modern times. Originally created for a British newspaper The Times in 1931, it was adopted for use in Microsoft products, beginning in 1992 with Windows 3.1. While it may be splitting hairs to talk about a typeface versus a font, typeface designates a consistent visual appearance or style which can be a family or related set of fonts. A font designates a specific member of a type family such as roman, italic, or boldface type. And stenograph? More tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Etymology and the Brain, 3

Enter the word typography (which has nothing to do with topography). It is a combination of two Greek words: typos meaning impression and graphie meaning writing. As a craft, typography reportedly had its origins in the punches and dies used to make currency and seals in ancient times. The world's first known movable type system for printing was created in China, circa 1040 A.D. Until the digital age, typography was a specialized occupation. Digitization opened up typography to new generations of visual designers and lay users. The definition now includes the digital equivalents of typesetting as well as the arrangement and appearance of printed matter along with the style of typeface. According to David Jury, Head of Graphic Design at Colchester Institute in England, “typography is now something everybody does.” Although the digital age brought typography into the reach of lay people, Claudie Fisher’s opinion is that “the art is best left to trained designers who are enjoying increased demand, due in large part to the growth of the Internet.” More tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Etymology and the Brain, 2

Topography. Is it literal or metaphorically? To complicate one’s understanding of topography, the form can be used literally or metaphorically. Used literally, it studies and describes the surface shapes on the earth and other planetary objects. Used metaphorically, it observes an entity and describes the relationship among its components. Here are examples:

“The topography of that country’s economy shows several depressed areas.”
“The topography of that laugh contains dramatic highs and lows.”
“The topography of that curricula is very uneven.”
“That woman’s topography is very eye-catching, to say the least!”
“The topography of that grilled steak leaves plenty of room for sauce!”
“What a ripped topography!”

Figure out ways to use the word to spice up your speech. Have fun with it! More tomorrow.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Etymology and the Brain

I really love words and enjoy etymology (the origin of the meaning of words). Some of it may have come from my mother who was a language teacher. Reportedly, she read aloud to “me” for 30 minutes a day during much of her pregnancy. I wonder how she knew to do that because back in the last century the reading-aloud information wasn’t well known . . . Anyway, the other day I heard someone say, “The topography of the Grand Canyon is amazing.” An individual nearby said, “Don’t you mean typography?” Close, but no cigar. Topography refers to the field of geoscience and includes the study of surface shapes on the earth and other planetary objects. A topographer is a person who describes such surface shapes and features graphically, usually in detail that includes elevation information. Cartography, on the other hand, is the art and science of making maps of the surface shapes. And a cartographer is a person who makes those maps, hand-drawn or computer-prepared. And if that’s not complicated enough, is topography literal or metaphorical? More tomorrow.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Your "Second Brain," 5

Medical understandings about brain-body connection is increasing by leaps and bounds, especially regarding the connection between the brain in one’s skull and the “second brain” in one’s gut. Sue Shepherd, PhD, is a dietitian, senior lecturer at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia, and a research scientist who is internationally recognized as an expert on the low-FODMAP diet and irritable bowel syndrome. Diagnosed with celiac disease herself, Dr. Shepherd consults on several international medical advisory committees for gastrointestinal conditions. Her book coauthored with Peter Gibson, MD, and William D. Chey, MD, is entitled The Complete Low-FODMAP Diet: A Revolutionary Plan for Managing IBS and Other Digestive Disorders. I have yet to read it. However, Gerard E. Mullin, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine and Director of Integrative GI Nutrition Services at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in commenting about this book wrote: “Begin your journey back to good gut health by using food as medicine.” Bottom line? Your “second brain” definitely impacts your “first brain.” Take care of one and it can positively impact the other—and vice versa. 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Your "Second Brain," 4

Have you heard about FODMAPs—an acronym coined by a group of researchers who were studying several types of digestive disorders? The acronym stands for fermentable oligo-, di- and mono-saccharides, and polyols—types of short-chain carbs that are commonly found in modern Western diets but that are poorly absorbed in the small intestines and easily fermented by bacteria: fructan in wheat, fructose in some fruits and artificial sweeteners, lactose in some dairy products, and galactans in some legumes. Foods that contain these forms of carbohydrates may exacerbate the symptoms of some digestive disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) that may be a type of gluten intolerance, and functional gastrointestinal disorders (FGID). Studies have shown that in some people their bowl symptoms may be due to the presence of these FODMAPs more than to gluten. More tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Your "Second Brain," 3

Gluten-free products, so-called, are proliferating. But what really is gluten? Many people seem to be on the gluten-free bandwagon but don’t always seem to even know what gluten is. You may have watched the YouTube segment by Jimmy Kimmel about gluten (see link below). As you may know, gluten is a protein composite, gliadin and glutenin, that is limited to specific members of the grass family, including wheat, barley, and rye. It gives dough its elasticity, helps it to rise, and provides a chewy texture for many products. Some people have a wheat allergy; the immune system treats a component of wheat as a foreign body. Typically this immune response is time-limited with no lasting harm to body tissues. Different from wheat allergies, some individuals with celiac disease experience adverse health issues ranging from bloating, gas, and diarrhea and vomiting, to migraine headaches and joint pain. And different from either wheat allergy or celiac, some experience non-celiac gluten sensitivity (likely a gluten intolerance) that may be caused by a reaction to other components of wheat. Enter FODMAPs.  More tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Your "Second Brain," 2

Neurons have been identified in the Enteric Nervous System, also known as your GI system—at least a million. That’s one reason some scientists refer to the ENS as the ‘second brain.’ This stance is also changing perspectives on functional gastrointestinal disorders or FGID. For example, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is now being referred to as an enteric neuropathy: enteric referring to the bowel and neuropathy indicating that the nerves are functioning sub-optimally. Patricia Raymond, MD, assistant professor of clinical internal medicine at Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk, points out that fiber can function like an on-off switch for IBS. Soluble fiber can slow down movement in the digestive tract, helping with diarrhea. Soluble fiber-rich foods include fruits such as strawberries, blueberries, apples, avocado, dried figs and prunes, oranges, and mango; and veggies such as asparagus, edamame, broccoli, green beans and peas, carrots, plus legumes, oats, barley, and psyllium. Insoluble fiber can speed up movement, alleviating constipation. Insoluble fiber can be found in zucchini, broccoli, cabbage, leafy greens, grapes, root vegetables, whole grains, brown rice, legumes, oats, and nuts. And what does that matter? Neurons in the gut communicate regularly with neurons in the brain. A healthier gut often means a more well-functioning brain. More tomorrow.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Your "Second Brain"

Some researchers are now talking about your “second brain.” What are they referring to? Your Enteric Nervous System or ENS—otherwise known as your gastrointestinal system. What forms the basis for this designation? Neurons. Thinking cells. Your ENS contains a million-plus neurons. They look just like brain neurons, eat the same type of food (neurotrophins), and have at least 30 neurotransmitters in common. Most of the serotonin in your brain and body—perhaps as much as 90%—is found in your gut along with half of all the dopamine. Knowing this it should be no surprise that an upset stomach can trigger a headache and upset emotions can result in a GI upset (e.g., constipation, diarrhea). An excess release of serotonin can cause nausea and vomiting, and so on. There is a close connection between brain and body, specifically between your first and second brains. More tomorrow.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Brain-Heart Health and Cholesterol, 5

It’s been known for some time that ingesting saturated fats, especially from non-plant sources, can adversely impact one’s health. Researchers at Wageningen University in the Netherlands studied the impact of trans fatty acids (TFAs) on blood vessel health. They wanted to investigate whether different diets affect the blood vessels' ability to dilate or expand; namely a comparison of a diet high in TFAs (9.2 percent of fats ingested were TFAs) versus one in which saturated fats replaced the TFAs. (Takeaway? TFAs are even more lethal than animal-derived saturated fats.) According to Nicole M. de Roos, M.Sc., a Ph.D. fellow and lead author of the study, although trans fats typically make up a relatively small portion of total fat ingested, it can have a huge impact on disease risk. They found that the ability of the blood vessels to dilate was 29 percent lower in people who ate the high-TFA diet compared those on the saturated fat diet. Blood levels of HDL cholesterol were 21 percent lower in the TFA group compared to the saturated fat group. Bottom line? Avoid TFAs. Lower your intake of animal-derived saturated fats. Use healthier fats in moderation (e.g., cold-pressed olive oil, coconut oil, avocados).

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Brain-Heart Health and Cholesterol, 4

Reportedly, trans fatty acids (TFAs) make up 4 percent to 7 percent of the dietary fat intake in the United States and the Netherlands. What is the effect on the potential health of individuals who ingest trans fats? It isn’t pretty! TFAs are created when hydrogen atoms are forced into liquid oils, such as soybean or corn oils. This process is required to make oils solid at room temperature so they can be used in processed foods and so the shelf-life of processed foods can be increased. When you read the terms "hydrogenated" or "partially hydrogenated" oils you know some of the ingredients have been subjected to this process. TFAs are commonly found in margarine, packaged baked goods, cookies, crackers, and restaurant fried foods. Trans fatty acids have been found to raise the lousy LDL cholesterol and lower the healthy HDL cholesterol, which can contribute to any number of disorders in the brain and body, especially cardiovascular disease that impacts both the heart and the brain. Is there a relationship between TFAs and decreased dilation of blood vessels? More tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Brain-Body Health and Cholesterol, 3

Cholesterol is vital to your health. Researchers are discovering just how vital it is. As one explained it, think of the liver as packaging cholesterol into so-called lipoproteins, combinations of fats and proteins that function as mass-transit systems. They transport cholesterol, fat-soluble vitamins, and other needed substances through the bloodstream to the cells that need them. What is so vital about cholesterol? Here are a few key functions cholesterol provides:
  • Helps keep cell walls (membranes) working appropriately
  • Assists cells in adjusting to temperature changes
  • Is used by nerve cells for insulation (myelin)
  • Helps create substances such as vitamin D in the presence of sunlight
  • Produces bile, a fluid that helps process and digest fats
  • Creates hormones such as testosterone, progesterone, and estrogen

What role do trans fatty acids play in raising LDL cholesterol? More tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Brain-Heart Health and Cholesterol, 2

Most of the cholesterol needed by your brain and body is manufactured in your liver, along with smaller amounts in the small intestine and even in some cells throughout the body. Cholesterol is also found in some foods. There are a number of Internet sources that provide lists of foods that are high, low, or cholesterol-free. According to the American Heart Association, LDL is found in foods containing saturated fats, such as those in animal-based products; and in foods containing trans fats, found in commercially prepared products that contain partially hydrogenated oils and shortening. Oatmeal and foods such as apples, prunes, and kidney beans contains soluble fiber, which can help to reduce LDL. Soluble fiber in many other fruits and vegetables can reduce the absorption of cholesterol into your blood stream, as well. What is cholesterol needed for in your brain and body anyway? More tomorrow.  

Monday, October 13, 2014

Brain-Heart Health and Cholesterol

Cholesterol is a type of fat that is vital to your health and found in the blood stream. Rather than just floating around in your blood, cholesterol can get into the walls of the blood vessels. Too much cholesterol in your blood stream and too much can lodge in the blood-vessel walls and remain there. Too much cholesterol in the walls of your blood vessels and the diameter of these vessels can narrow. This can clog the vessels causing any number of problems such as decreasing appropriate rate of blood flow to the brain and vital body organs and increasing the risk for blood clots. Blood clots in the circulatory system can cause heart attacks and venous thrombosis; strokes in the brain. The two main types of cholesterol are HDL and LDL. HDL (high density lipoprotein) is generally referred to a healthier cholesterol because it returns to the liver to be broken down. LDL (low density lipoprotein) is sometimes referred to as lousy cholesterol, as someone once put it, because it is more likely to hang out in the blood and lodge in the walls of the blood vessels. Where does cholesterol come from? More tomorrow.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Brain-Body Connection 4

Repression of what is going on the one's mind and body can cause high levels of stress; and high levels of unmanaged stressors can be significant contributors to illness. How does one become more aware? One way to begin is to learn all you can about your generational history. Compare common exhibited behaviors against current studies that correlate them with illness and longevity. How many of those behaviors do you typically exhibit in your life? You have a choice: continue them or develop healthier behaviors. Become mindfully aware of the behaviors you are exhibiting at any given moment. Do you choose to continue them or make a different choice. Be aware of the past and have goals for the future--and live in the present. If you have not done much family-of-origin work to identify common behaviors and levels of health and longevity, check out my min-monograph. In my life, it's been more than worth the work!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Brain-Body Connection 3

Many factors can predispose a person to developing illness, disease, and/or a shortenened lifespan. Many of those factors are lived unconsciously, behaviors that have been passed down from past generations, a lack of knowledge, insufficient awareness, and a failure to live mindfully in the present, to name just a few. Yes, heredity and environmental hazards can and do impact illness and longevity. Not everything can be prevented or fixed. However, identifying family patterns of behaviors and illnesses can give you the option to make healthier choices. Thinking ahead and living a lifestyle that promotes clear thinking and responsible choices can often prevent many environmental hazards. Despite decades of correlation studies that drinking alcoholic beverages and driving make bad bed-mates, 2010 data revealed that one person died every 48 minutes in the USA due to motor vehicle crashes that involve an alcohol-impaired driver.  All of those deaths (to say nothing of injuries that did not result in immediate death) were preventable.  More tomorrow. External Web Site Icon

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Brain-Body Connection 2

First and perhaps foremost, Western thought typically speaks of brain and body as separate entities. There is no such separation. Dr. Candace Pert talked about the bodymind and others have talked about the mindbody. It is one. Whatever impacts the body impacts the brain; whatever impacts the mind impacts the body. It's true that some choices may impact part of that equation more than another, but both are always impacted. Smoking, for, example. Studies have shown a link between smoking and lung health (including an increased risk for cancer). There is a corresponding impact on the brain, as well, in that the brain has been subjected to decreased amounts of oxygen with every puff. Decreased oxygen levels over time has not been shown to promote brain health over the long term. All things being equal, everyone will eventually experience some illness and eventually death. The more that people learn about mindbody collaboration and the choices they can make to increase their potential for health and longevity, the less likely they are to become, as Dr. Mate put it, "passive victims." More tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Brain-Body Connection

As Gabor Mate, MD, put it in his When the Body Says NO, "It is a sensitive matter to raise the possibility that the way people have been conditioned to live their lives may contribute to their illness." Some are now saying that the way people have been conditioned to live their lives also impacts their longevity. If estimates that 70 percent of how long you live and how well you live while you are alive relates to factors that you can at least partially (if not completely) control are accurate, you may play a much greater role that you have perhaps understood. First, blame and contribution are two different things. As Dr. Mate puts it, apart from being  morally obtuse, blaming the sufferer is completely unfounded from a scientific point of view. However, being morally responsible for making healthier choices and instead of just reacting or over-reacting is not only possible for the vast majority of individuals but also impact the link between mind and body and emerging understandings of health.  Human beings need to become aware of the link between mind and body or brain and body, not only for an understanding of illness but also for an understanding of health. More Tomorrow

Monday, October 6, 2014

Eric Jensen's Newsletter

Several have written to ask about newsletter resources specifically related to child gender differences and learning. I just read Eric Jensen's October 14 newsletter and you may find it a helpful resource.

Here is one excerpt by way of example:  "The differences in sex steroid receptors mean that genders are affected differently by stress. Exposure to early-childhood distress adversely affects the male brain more in learning areas and the female brain more in social-emotional areas (Weinstock, 2007). In short, when bad things happen at home, males are worse at learning. Learning deficits, reductions in hippocampal neurogenesis, memory issues and less dendritic spine density in the prefrontal cortex are seen more commonly occurring in prenatally-stressed males. Females are more likely to report more adverse social and emotional events, which increases risk for stress-related outcomes such as anxiety and depression later in life."

I asked Eric Jensen the easiest way for readers to access his newsletter and received this response:

They can sign up for our newsletter by 

1) sending their name to <>

2) going to our home page at <>

Friday, October 3, 2014

Automatic Thinking While Asleep, II

Researchers at the University of Cambridge and the Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris recorded the EEG (brain waves) on a group of participants while they were awake. They repeated the experiment while participants were sleeping. However, they used different words of animals and objects. Obeservation of sleeping brain activity showed that the participants continued to respond accurately to the words although more slowly than when they were awake. According to researcher Sid Kouider, the study showed that speech processing and other complex tasks can be done without being aware of what you perceive. It may be that such unconscious processing is likely not limited by the complexity of the task but by whether or not it can be performed automatically.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Automatic Thinking While Asleep

It’s obvious that parts of your brain continue to function while you sleep. After all you keep breathing, your heart keeps beating, and so on. But do you really “think” while you sleep? It probably depends, at least in part, on your definition of “think.” Researchers at the University of Cambridge and the Ecole Normale SupĂ©rieure in Paris recorded the EEG (brain waves) on a group of participants while they were awake. They were instructed to classify spoken words as either objects or animals by pressing a button. They were to use the right hand to press the button for animals and the left hand to press the button for objects. Testing continued while the participants were sleeping. What the researchers found—tomorrow. 

Kouider et al. Inducing task-relevant responses to speech in the sleeping brain, Current Biology, 2014, DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2014.08.016

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Quantum Physics and Consciousness

I'm sure you know that what constitutes consciousness continues to be highly debated. There are several theories ranging from "mind consciousness is developed by the physical brain," to "mind consciousness develop the physical brain" to "the physical brain and mind consciousness develop simultaneously." Recent discovery of quantum vibrations in microtubules inside brain neurons corroborates a controversial 20-year-old theory of consciousness--which claimed that consciousness derives from deeper-level, finer-scale activities inside brain neurons. According to review authors, EEG rhythms (brain waves) may also derive from deeper level microtubule vibrations, and that from a practical standpoint, treating brain microtubule vibrations could benefit a host of mental, neurological, and cognitive conditions.